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Buchetta del vino, Source: Buchette del vino Facebook page

How the pandemic brought back a Renaissance tradition to Florence

How the pandemic brought back a Renaissance tradition to Florence

The delectable little wine windows dotting many facades have been rediscovered

It goes without saying that suddenly life has veered off its tracks in the year 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Looking back in history, however, can serve to remind us that what we are experiencing today is nothing that humankind has not dealt with before.

Curious and beautiful reminders of that fact are the so-called buchette del vino (literally ‘little wine holes’) in the city of Florence and other towns in Tuscany. These are little, usually arched windows located at near-ground level on some of the historical mansions, which were especially prominent as a way to serve wine on the go while reducing contact during the plague epidemic of the 1630s. This summer they have seen resurgence in popularity thanks to their convenient design.

There are about 180 of them in the historical centre of Florence

Originally, the buchette del vino were not thought out as anti-pandemic devices but rather as a convenient way for wine producers to sell their product directly to their customers and also to avoid taxes. When the plague pandemic arrived they came in handy, even if people back then were less aware of how contagion is spread, there are records that after handing out the flask of wine the sellers would extend a pail where the customer would drop the payment. The money was then disinfected with vinegar.

Eventually, as it often happens, habits and trends changed and the little windows fell out of favour and most of them got walled in and boarded up. Even many contemporary Florentines would daily pass by them unaware of the history behind them.

In 2015, a non-profit association was started with the aim of documenting, preserving and raising awareness of this unique Florentine architectural heritage. The organization, also called Buchette del Vino, has about 180 photos of these windows in Florence and nearly a 100 in the rest of Tuscany.

However, what really shone the spotlight on them was the COVID pandemic and restrictions. Several of the city’s establishments which happened to operate in buildings that had buchette decided to re-open them and restore a long-forgotten tradition.

These days, however, apart from wine, one can also buy gelato at one of these service windows - a reminder of a more contemporary world.

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